Priscilla Jayne Valdez became my Auntie Priscilla not because of any blood relation, but because of a strong connection of our hearts. My mom met Priscilla when she was fourteen and a freshman at Claremont High School. They have been friends ever since.
One of the things I hear over and over again from families who have a child fighting cancer is how things change once their child is diagnosed. It’s not only the day to day dealing with health and life and death issues, it is dealing with many new emotional issues as well. There will always be someone—friend or family– who is not able to handle the reality of the illness. Some people flee from your life as if they are fearful they will become sick too if they stay around. On the other hand, there are family and friends who draw near, remaining right by your side in case there is any way they can help.
My Auntie Priscilla is one of those family/friends who have always been by my side. In the midst of my treatment, after my treatment, even during the creation of my book, she has been a constant support. Over twenty years ago, one of Auntie Priscilla’s friends lost their baby girl to cancer. She never forgot, and she has always given generously to help stop childhood cancer. She has taught me about kindness and generosity by her example.
While I was in treatment, Auntie Priscilla and I grew very close as a bond grew stronger and deeper and a treasured understanding of each other developed. She has fought health problems for a decade.
“My mom and I traveled to Irvine to meet up with Priscilla and her daughter, Tanya. Our incredible friends from Washington have supported me every step of the way. Priscilla, unfortunately, was in extremely poor health, and when I was asked whether or not I wanted to go, I did not even take a single second to think about it. I had to go. I had not seen her in nearly five years, and I had to go thank her.
I’ll tell you, just to put my arms around her, look into her bright hazel eyes, and show her my gratitude was unbelievable. Amazing. Funny thing, too, I suddenly had a new sense of compassion for her. Always having felt sorry that she had to go through all that she went through, I now had a different feeling toward her. It was as if I could not only see her pain, but feel it as well. I know what it is like to be that sick.
Auntie Priscilla, you are incredible, and I love you so, so much. You have done so much for me, and I am at a loss for words to express my gratitude. You are so strong, and you have a heart of pure gold.
Going to see her helped me to remember to cherish every step, every breath, and every improvement in my recovery. I was reminded that, although life is so, so tough, and I’ve been through the wringer, I still have so much to be grateful for.”
Copyright Melinda Marchiano Grace: A Child’s Intimate Journey Through Cancer and Recovery
On October 27, 2011, Auntie Priscilla left this Earth. I have no doubt she is now in the arms of our Heavenly Father. As I drove home from dance on this same night, it was late and the clear sky was filled with stars. I drove past the Avila Beach exit and around the corner on the 101, heading south into Shell Beach when I noticed a brilliant star in the sky. It was so bright I thought it had to be a planet. Just as this thought passed through my brain, the shimmering star began to shoot across the sky over the ocean, displaying the most spectacular astronomical event I have ever witnessed.
Auntie Priscilla called me her Little Angel.
I think my Auntie gave her Little Angel one last amazing gift of love.